A mouse and keyboard are fine for plodding your way around a 2D desktop – but they aren’t exactly the most dynamic input devices for flying around 3D spaces. Tilting, panning and turning either require you to switch tools or reach for keys, making it all a bit of a stop/start affair.
3DConnexion’s SpaceNavigator, however, promises six degrees of freedom from a single device, so you can turn, pan and zoom without ever having to take your hands off it.
The SpaceNavigator does take a little bit of getting used to, but once you’ve got the hang of it it’s an incredibly natural way of moving around 3D worlds. With Google Earth, for example, you can zoom in and out, pan left and right and move around without having to change controls. You just push or twist the SpaceNavigator in the direction you want to go.
It’s a bit like combining a jog shuttle and joystick and with support for over 100 common 3D applications, you should find the one you want to use covered.
The SpaceNavigator is no replacement for your existing mouse – it’s meant to be used in addition to your usual peripherals, so it’ll take up additional desk space. If you’re right handed, that also means using it with your left hand which makes it more difficult to control precisely.
Although flying around virtual worlds is fun, there’s only so much you can do before it gets a bit boring. The SpaceNavigator is compatible with popular 3D modelling applications, but if you want to use it commercially you’ll need to pay forty quid more.
3D control: 6 degrees of freedom
Operating system: Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Linux (Redhat Enterprise Linux WS 3, SuSE 9.0 or higher), Mac OS X 10.4.6 or higher
Dimensions: 78x78x53 mm
Weight: 479 g
The SpaceNavigator is a very natural way to move around 3D applications and it works very well. However given that it doesn’t replace any of your additional peripherals, £39 seems a bit on the high side just to fly around a virtual world or two.
It may make more sense if you make a living out of modelling 3D environments, but then you’ll have to pay an additional fee to use it commercially.
Related sites: 3DConnexion